This idea came to me recently when I was watching one of those many popular Ghost Hunting TV shows; the ones which either have me laughing or shouting at the TV. Something which my partner finds very amusing I am sure. Especially as now my son has started to get involved in this particular activity. Although it does worry me when my fourteen year old can identify when supposed evidence in these shows, is far from true evidence.
However, at the time the Ghost Hunters in question were advocating that the received fluctuations on their Electromagnetic Field (EMF) device were potential evidence of something paranormal occurring. This in turn sparked a conversation with my son about if it really was a ghost. Of course my response was simple; ‘unlikely.’
The reason being is that we were unaware of the true circumstances of that scenario completely and no idea what technology the Ghost Hunter may have on them.
This in turn took me back to my original days of Ghost Hunting, when I was still learning about investigating phenomena. Back then, and in a similar fashion to these particular TV Ghost Hunters we would look out for EMF spikes and often correlate this to the paranormal. I saw many Ghost Hunters even claim some fluctuations in EMF meters like KII as intelligent spirit communication during their investigations. A statement which always confused me greatly as there was no real evidence to support that these fluctuations in EMF were even a spirit, let alone intelligent.
As such the team I mainly investigated with would always seek out a potential source for the EMF fluctuations and test with rigour if there was a thought that they could be some kind of communication. We always took the stance that, if it seemed too good to be true, then it probably was.
However, in order to highlight what I mean here, let me see if the following examples provide some insight.
The first occurred whilst we were investigating a jail area. As we began to ask questions out loud in one of the darkened jail cells, we were surprised to receive what seemed like a response via the EMF meter. We asked another question, and once again there was a response on the EMF meter. A third question and once again a response. It seemed too good to be true, and it was!
Realising that the timing of our questions was actually pretty consistent, we stopped asking the questions and timed the gap between the EMF spikes. Straight away we saw a pattern and that told us that they may have a source that was potentially man made.
Searching the area we found a Blackberry smartphone that was still on in one of our bags. The reason that there was a similar time frame between the EMF spikes, was simply because it was connecting and checking the network. I guess it was a form of communication, just not spirit communication.
The second example occurred whilst we were investigating a museum many years later. Perhaps our experience with the phone and our understanding of that helped us to analyse the situation better. It certainly did not take us long to realise the source in this case though.
This time, we once again appeared to be receiving EMF fluctuations when we asked questions in a particular room. Two or three questions in and we once again recognised the similar time frames between the EMF fluctuations. Again we stopped asking questions and the EMF fluctuations continued. Measuring the intervals provided a pattern and some simple investigation around the room helped us to identify the source as a building alarm system. A simple explanation that was right there the whole time, but only found when you look for it.
Now, do not get me wrong when I read this back the explanations seem obvious, even to the extent where I began to believe them to be poor examples. However, that is just the point, at the time we followed the process to discover them to have logical explanations. Though not all individuals or groups may have handled their investigations like we did and as such may have continued along the belief that they were communicating with spirits. This could possibly explain why we often hear so much of intelligent spirit communication with little supporting evidence.
The point here being that often Ghost Hunters can misinterpret information, whilst a true logical explanation is closer than is thought. However, perhaps belief plays a part in the assessment with many electing to chase their personal experience rather than the facts. This is highlighted once again by the TV Ghost Hunters as they chase experience rather than true evidence, but pass it off as ‘proof positive.’ Bias is something we all try to believe does not impact our own investigations, but in reality it is there for us all to deal with. Of course once we realise the potential of bias within our investigations, then we can begin to combat it and take it into account.
So, do we really need t turn our phones off when investigating? Probably not, as whether its our phones being picked up by an EMF meter or a building alarm system; we should be looking for logical explanations and then what is left may be a little odd. Yet we should not be jumping to conclusions, we should be analysing the information properly.
If we have a better understanding of what it is we are trying to investigate, how we want to do that and how the technology we use actually works; then our results should be better.
However, I am not sure if random EMF fluctuations should be considered intelligent communication. We should be looking for more when it comes to such a claim. I would even state that brief EVP recordings lack somewhat as evidence, especially as they are very subjective.
Understanding the environment we are investigating is important and capturing good data is imperative for analysis. Standard Ghost Hunting is very reactive to experience and events; rather than capturing data for review. Whilst the Ghost Hunting approach is probably more exciting and has more drama, it is not really investigating in my opinion. That is why we need to know if we are seriously investigating or just having fun on a Ghost Hunt. It is something we need to be honest about moving forwards, so we can understand what is true research. Messing about in a darkened old building with some friends hunting ghosts is fine, I enjoy it too; but we need to be honest.
We also need to better document those true investigations, so researchers now and in the future can begin to try and understand the phenomena.
At the end of the day when these phenomena occur spontaneously, they do so for people with smart phones and even smart watches. So, it does not really matter if phones are on or not, as we should research regardless. A good investigator should be able to account for things like mobile phones. Also, we should not base evidence on a singular element like EMF alone; we should endeavour to balance our information to build a case.
So, next time you attend a Ghost Hunt perhaps just try questioning anything that appears to be too good to be true. And do not be afraid to capture lots of data and try analysing it for some patterns. We place a lot of faith in our technology these days; whether thats for our day to day life or to assist with our paranormal investigations; it has certainly become a more dominant part of the process. However, spontaneous cases often include somebody who has witnessed something somewhere and that information is important to capture for the records. Then we can begin to break down the paranormal events and ascertain what may be required to investigate the event; if indeed investigation is required at all. Sometimes observing and documenting is more valuable than a single photo or EVP that could just be good examples of pareidolia.
It is time to start pushing the envelope, we need more than photographs, questionable audio recordings and grainy video footage. We need to seek out the understanding of the experience itself. Stop looking for the ghosts themselves and seek out their source!